“The inspectors all round” is so ironic given what we now know about this Government’s founding of the Rapid Response Unit (Cabinet Office) – The Counter Disinformation Unit (MOD (77Brigade) and DCMS) – the covert and then denied decision-making process on Debanking, and the DCMS-controlled Gambling Commission’s Affordability Checks. Lord Mountbatten could be prescient sometimes.
The poster was going to appear in our Christmas card-book-Commonplace at Christmas, but The Hon said something about my finding it difficult to pull a cracker with a broken arm.
Still and all, the news this week has confirmed everything I suspected would come to pass. CCHQ has found some Centrist wonk, who has convinced the party that to win the next election, they must become liberal socialists, throw the red wall MPs onto the bonfire of the vanities, tell the Europeans we want to be nice, and get frightfully tough with Israel. Wearing my Nostradamus hat for a moment, surely no illegals will be returned anywhere before the next GE, whilst a new party is being formulated and funded and will be launched, but when … aah but there’s the rub. In racing terms, I think they’ll find the ground Soft to Heavy in places, and the middle of the course will be very loose underfoot.
Another victim of The Hon. Sub-Editor’s spike in the Christmas Commonplace was the 2024 racing calendar of key racing dates. For a decade, the book has always contained a guide to the main race days, providing our readers with, we hoped, an aide-memoire to help with planning house parties, dinners, and transport. The BHA has changed that, and the result is a list of 170 “Premier Racedays” which was simply course, dates, was seven pages long, and gave no clue as to the key races (or heritage as it is sometimes called). Their website declared these dates would be:
“…run in 2024, underpinned by criteria around prize money and quality of racing, and acting as the sport’s main shop window. They will ensure consistent, high-quality racing which can be differentiated from the rest of the fixture list and better promoted to showcase the sport to new and existing audience… Premier Racedays will therefore account for approximately 12% of fixtures, and these top-tier days will be supported by significantly enhanced promotion, broadcast innovation and fan engagement, with proposals being developed through the Commercial Committee and more detail to be published in the coming months….”
I asked a BHA chap where the list was and he assured me, on 8th November, that
“… This is something that is going to be looked at by the sport in the coming weeks. …Work is now ongoing across the sport, led by Great British Racing rather than the BHA, as to how to package and promote this. This will include consideration of how and where the most significant races are presented. Hopefully, the sport will be able to update further on this in the coming weeks.”
Quite apart from using “The Sport” in much the same manner as the Royal “We”, I rather thought the BHA, after several decades in authority, might by now have a grasp of the Almanac and Diaries market in the run-up to Christmas. As it is, I currently have to go to five different racecourse websites to discover the dates of the King George, the Ebor, Future Champions Day, The “I-Can’t Remember-Who-Is-Sponsoring-it Gold Cup” at the end of the Jumps season at a course near London – The Grand National and the Craven meeting. The latter isn’t a Premier Raceday incidentally, nor are the Lingfield Derby and Oaks Trials – so they can’t be terribly important meetings -can they?
By the by – and leading on from my little cri-de-coeur – I was taken by the words of David Jones, the BHA’s Senior Independent Director and chair of the aforementioned Commercial Committee, who was the keynote speaker at the 2023 Horseracing Industry Conference, which took place at York Racecourse on Tuesday 24 October. His speech contained these words – which I do not think I take out of context.
“…Had we continued on our existing trajectory we would have consigned racing to a bleak future: Declining attendances, an ageing fan base, deterioration of betting turnover, marginalisation, loss of revenues, loss of owners, loss of our best horses overseas, reduced competitiveness with our international colleagues, loss of relevance. The list is long. And really grim. It is made worse by the very substantial headwinds we face, with the challenges presented by the Gambling Commission’s current consultation among the most pressing and most threatening. While concerns about the Commission’s proposals are keenly felt across Racing I am encouraged to see that the industry has been incredibly unified and effective in both its public and private lobbying and campaigning around this issue….”
Well, David, old fruit, you’re bang on with the W and T of your SWOT analysis – but I’m afraid the BHA has been spending millions every year on marketing, and every year “The Sport” was told how effective it had been in that expenditure. Your analysis suggests it hasn’t, and the Comms team’s response to a simple diary query provides some insight into the problems “The Sport” faces.
Our biggest communication problem is of course highlighted by the fact that after two weeks we still haven’t got 100,000 signatures.
You might have seen that Sporting Index was sold to Spreadex the other day, and as I tried to get on a Sell on the Time of the 3rd match goal for a couple of quid a point, I was blocked from signing in until I had told them my income, savings, source of my money, working status, etc and so ad infinitum. I sent the following note:
I am not asking you for credit, nor have I ever, in all my long relationship with you, had any issue that might be seen as a financial problem to either of us.
I will not supply you with my financial details nor tell you the source of my income. It is legal, honestly obtained and taxed and having some stranger ask me over the internet to supply such information regarding my disposable income is entirely akin to asking me questions about my sexual health, whether I have extra-marital sex, whether I enjoy Ketamine recreationally, or vote UKIP.
In brief, it is none of your business.
Please close my account immediately and return any funds [£192] to the debit card you have on record.
Please do not attempt to justify your actions, which are the thin end of a wedge that will eventually impact all of us.
In the meantime, can you please ask everyone in your office currently receiving any benefits, whether they would tell me if they smoke, have Sky subscriptions, or have a season ticket for a Football Club in the Premier or EFL. As a taxpayer, I am simply concerned that they are not harming their families by ill-advised expenditures and taking the food from their little one’s mouths.
Incidentally, the answers to those unasked questions are OK, No, No, No
Talking of Lies, damned lies, and statistics, I’m at Cheltenham all day, and will be backing these:
1:10 Lycetts Insurance Brokers Conditional Jockeys’ Hcap Hdl Cl3 (3yo+ 0-125) 2m5f 20 run (6p with Skybet and PaddyP)
Gavin Cromwell won this last year and is back with FATHOM TWO who won a Downpatrick maiden on soft and then was a 2l 3rd of 6 at the same track on handicap debut last month. WHITE RHINO turned out to be a very decent handicapper last year with a hat trick bagged at Southwell in March. His winning seasonal debut at Carlisle led one to suspect that the handicapper had his hands full, and the 9lb rise and an extra furlong won’t hinder I suspect. GENTLE AND KIND got off the mark at her second attempt when winning a Tramore novice 89 days ago. She is open to further improvement on her handicap debut. Another Irish challenger SKRADIN won a Fairyhouse Maiden hurdle two starts back and was not given a terribly good ride at Cork on handicap debut 12 days ago, trying to win from the front. Ridden with more patience by the same jockey, he is worth place money. Let the market be your guide as far as FOILLAN is concerned. He’s back to his last winning mark when trained by the good doctor Newland. Lost his way – but a new yard might have reset the mind.
WHITE RHINO 4 pts win – SKRADIN 1½ pts e/w – FOILLAN 1½ pts e/w
1:45 Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+ 0-150) 2m ITV4 11 run (4p WillHill and Bet365)
I loathe sniggering little boy race titles… just saying…
The trends are a little fuzzy, but leave me with a shortlist of three – possibly four, if I think CALICO can manage a new trends-defying weight of 6lbs too much. I don’t. Yes – he gave Jonbon a scare at Warwick in February in a G2, before going on to win a C2 handicap at Doncaster in March. Then he fell at Aintree in a G1 when nailed on for a P2 behind Jopnbon again. TRIPLE TRADE looked like he needed further – but soft ground will help. COASTGUARD STATION is a useful handicapper and his seasonal debut 3rd at Wetherby was OK. They’ve tried him over 20f – but this is his distance and he has a reasonable chance.
BALLYBREEZE went onto a number of shortlists last October when he won his chase debut at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance. Then the wheels came off in the Arkle then he crashed at Market Rasen. This is his just his fourth start over fences and if his confidence is fully restored, he might turn out to be more than capable.
BALLYBREEZE 4 pts Win – COASTGUARD STATION 2pts e/w
SSS Super Alloys Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Nov. Chs (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m ITV4 4 run
MIGHTY TOM 4 pts win
2:55 Glenfarclas Cross Country Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 3m5½f ITV4 13 run (4p generally)
DELTA WORK and GALVIN, first and second in last season’s Cross Country Chase at the festival, clash again over the unique course. The trends don’t do much but might suggest FRANKY DU BERLAIS who was in 3rd when chucking the towel in at the last in the Festival XC. He is a dual G3 chase winner who has never fallen, including in 4 races over the Grand National fences. 14s looks sexy with that record. DELTA WORK has won the XC Fetcival Chase twice. GALVIN goes well fresh and his 7lb claim means he is weighted to finish closer to his stable mate here. BACK ON THE LASH has won this race twice and is now 2lb lower than for the last of those successes. He pulled up behind DELTA WORK in the XC in March and again on his seasonal return at Exeter 24 days ago. I wouldn’t touch him until I knew his head was straight. DIESEL D’ALLIER won this race in 2019 when trained in France and he was a 1¾ length 3rd of 13 to BACK ON THE LASH in 202; he’s weighted to go close. Question marks over many of these – but I think we’ll get a run and possibly a small return from…
FRANKY DU BERLAIS 3 pts e/w
3:30 Trustatrader Nov.’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f ITV4 8 run
Last year’s Champion Bumper third CAPTAIN TEAGUE looked very decent when winning the G2 Persian War at Chepstow on his hurdling debut and has to give 2lb+ to them all. His nearest rivals are Irish challengers KINBARA and THE BIG DOYEN. Bottom line – if CAPTAIN TEAGUE doesn’t win this then the Brits can forget it against the Irish this season – because these two representatives are by no means their best Novices.
CAPTAIN TEAGUE 8 pts Win- – 4 pts double with IMPOSE TOI
4:05 Valda Energy Nov.’ Hcap Hdl Cl3 (3yo+ 0-125) 2m½f 18 run
IMPOSE TOI 6 pts win